Unplugged - Today's Best Luxury?

June 11, 2012

Unplugged life or alway on? Can digital nomads unplug?

"The greatest luxury of the 21st century will be dropping off the grid. Black-hole resorts will be notable for the total absence of the internet - even walls will be impervious to wireless signals." Travel and Leisure

In this age of digital overload with 24-7 technology that can separate us from the beauty around us as well as friends and family. the peace and serenity of being "unplugged" is perhaps the most valuable luxury today. People are even willing to pay a premium for an ideal opportunity to decompress and escape the endless chatter while traveling. Why?

Despite the wonders of tech today and being a world traveling digital nomad family,  some how it saddens me to see people so disconnected from one another on mass transit around the world, lost in their own world, oblivious to the person right next to them or that they are even on a bus or train or plane. Where ever we go we see people plugged into their smart phones and hand held devices

Perhaps the most astonishing example was a traditionally dressed woman in the middle of no where on the one road deep in Bhutan who was dressed in traditional clothes, carrying a handwoven basket on her back filled with fresh picked greens and was talking on a cell phone!

" a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other." C. P. Snow

"Technology...the knack of so arranging the world that we don't have to experience it."  Frisch


A new survey from Pew Research Center  found that 58 percent of all adults use the internet as a diversion from daily life and that is "vastly higher" than in the mid -2000s. Another survey showed 66% of people are so addicted that they are afraid to be without their cell phone. Are we headed in the right direction or just more addiction?

Even more tragic is how many people totally miss thier kid's childhood  and neglect their children due to this cell phone and tech obsession. I worry about the science that says cell phones are particularly bad for kids and teens. Or scientific research that suggests parallels between screen dependency and alcoholism and an association between high levels of screen use with both type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

There is plenty of evidence that too much technology time is harmful to kids development and we see it first hand when we lapse occasionally and see a huge difference in behaviour without tech limits. Not to mention, I think it is all but impossible to raise a book reader if they are exposed to too much time on tech.

We purposely avoided kidlet ever owning a Nintendo DS despite them being very popular with her peers around the world, she made one herself instead which I think is far more creative  and she is a passionate bookaholic. We're not fond of many video games and their addictive and brain altering properties. I find many parents use these things as "babysitters" like the TV, just to keep kids quiet and I prefer my kid has her nose in classic books instead, where she learns effortlessly without the razzle dazzle distractions.


I love it that top technology execs in Silicon Valley from Apple, Google, and Hewlett-Packard send their kids to a Waldorf school with no tech according to the New York Times. Even as a world traveling digital nomad family who is dependent on tech, we agree wholeheartedly that one must be careful with tech, especially with kids.

We purposely do not even own a smart phone and almost never use a cell phone ( have it only for long stay bases, primarily so friends can call us if necessary). I am such an ungeek that I don't even know how to use a cell phone and hate them, forget about texting, typing with two thumbs seems totally insane to me. Perhaps it's my age or not living a "normal" life, but I like it this way.

One of our dumbest moves was to buy a top of the line  ipod touch last year,  which we hate and still don't know how to use. I thought it would be useful for our around-the-world family trip, but I keep trying to do less and less time online, so it's probably doomed to be a very occasional ( and VERY expensive) toy for kidlet ( hopefully for educational purposes like language learning on the move). I just don't see the need for a handheld device and refuse to be tethered to it or one of the millions sleeping with it. 


It may seem odd that someone with over 30, 000 Twitter followers ( started in early 2008) and over 5000 friends/fans/etc on our various Facebook pages, would be an ungeek and worried about the problems with technology today. Most of our tech has begun because of our lifestyle,  but maybe it is because we ARE paperless, long term, world digital nomads with a tween that I can see the many disadvantages as well as the advantages. Travel 2.0 has taught me a few things along the way.

I am not sure if one needs to totally unplug 24/7/365,  but sometimes I am tempted to do just that. I do think it is valuable to have many totally unplugged days and many unplugged hours every day.

I do LOVE the advantages of technology and it certainly has been a huge ( and unexpected)  benefit to our travel lifestyle, but it is also a time suck and addictive tool that one has to use very carefully. I don't think I have mastered that yet and perhaps never will, but I hope to teach my child the evils and harms of tech as well as the wonders. Just like junk food, junk tech can be an addiction that destroys life. It can seem harmless in small doses, but it is a slippery slope, getting even harder for the 21st century information-age generation.

We try not to do tech while she is around or awake unless we are doing purposeful pursuits for a limited time ( like her doing school work while I blog and hubs works on finances together in the same room etc). Unlike some unschool parents, we put strong limits on her time online. When she is online, I want her doing valuable work, not learning how to waste time or falling into addictive patterns.

What is your view of being unplugged more? Despite all the wonderful things about tech, does it cause harm and how can we make less of  the downsides in this information age?  Do you adore the luxury of unplugging?

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Julia, KidsTravel2

Interesting article and one which resonates with me as a parent of 2 young children. I love technology and the benefits it brings but do feel it needs to be managed and balanced. I find this aspect tiring trying to help my children learn this too - talking about screen time & also practising what you preach and not being plugged in as an adult all the time. My view is that it's the age we live in so we can't turn our backs on it completely but it will never in my mind replace human interaction / connecting with the great outdoors. This is what I strive for!

Jeanne @soultravelers3

So happy to hear you enjoyed it Julia!

Yes, we do live in an age where it is difficult to totally unplug and there are MANY advantages, but it is a balance for sure...and not always easy to attain.

Just like kids are attracted to candy, french fries, ice cream etc...they will gravitate to the worst of the web ( and plenty of temptation out there to help addict to junk food and junk tech). They do focus groups and tests to make it difficult to resist and fooling labels/cons about it being "healthy" or "educational".

Parents have to look deeper and be more thoughtful on what they allow into their children IMHO.


We've tried to take at least one "unplugged" trip a year since our oldest hit the tween years. Did an off-the-grid trip to Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica, a 5-day river raft/camp trip, and this year's version is a "non-wifi-ready" Maine coastal house. We all need that unplugged time! Kids turn back to kids and find sticks interesting, hikes enchanting, bike rides fun competition. Can't wait until this year's unplugged trip!

Jeanne @soultravelers3

Good for you Carol! Kids certainly do turn back to kids when you remove all the media from their lives and let them be out in nature more! Have fun!!


I'm of the "everything in moderation camp". I think it's a good idea to make a habit of unplugging and giving your family your undivided attention for at least a little while everyday. Whether that's eating dinner together or having (non-video) game night or just reading playing in the backyard together. But movie nights, video games together and using your iPhone to find your way on your adventures and chronicle them with photos and video have their place too.


Very eye opening and some points are well-supported by logical points. I think, indeed the growing technology will soon evolve the quality and "smartness" of our literary arts.

Jeanne @soultravelers3

Sure, Jb2go everyone has their own idea of moderation and each must decide what works for them.

Many Americans tend to think life can't be lived without an iphone, but one can actually have a VERY rich life without one. ;)

We certainly have not missed it on our adventures to 44 countries on 5 continents.

The more we travel the word, the lighter we go and the more we want to unplug. ;)

Jeanne @soultravelers3

Thanks Jesse! We'll see!

Sandra Foyt

It's a balance for all of us, not just the kids. My view is that I relish the positive effects of being able to use technology, and I encourage my children to take full advantage of these resources. That, of course, means that we are constantly striving for a healthy balance between being online and offline. And, whenever possible, we also enjoy spending time in Nature - far, far off the grid.

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